It seems to me that Super Bowl Controversy is a sport unto itself. This year the controversy centers on an anti-abortion ad by Focus On The Family. The ad features football star Tim Tebow and his mother discussing her choice not to abort, despite medical advice that it might be best for her health, when she was pregnant with him.
Focus on the Family is an exrtraordinarily regressive organization when it comes to women's rights and sexual freedom and I would not expect to like any ad of theirs. But this one in particular is galling because the only reason it tugs at our hearts is that Pam Tebow HAD a choice, one that she exercised after private discussions with her family and her doctors. Yet her very exercising of this choice is being used to swing public opinion in a direction that would take choice away from other women.
A: When it is a selective reduction
I don't imagine this post is going to make me popular.
Today's New York Times has an article about the very painful choices faced by prospective parents who make use of fertility treatments, find that they are pregnant with multiples, and then are faced with the risk of those pregnancies - both to the hopeful mom and the soon to be children. Successful fertility treatments often produce multiples because hormones are used to stimulate egg production or because multiple embryos are implanted. But because being pregnant wtih twins or triplets or even more developing fetuses is risky, and because children born from those pregancies are more likely to be born very premature and are thus at risk for greater and more serious health problems than babies born from singleton pregnancies, doctors sometimes counsel prospective parents to consider "selective reduction" where some fetuses are eliminated.
I am not going to write about the painful choice this must be. I am not going to write about whether or not such fertility treatments are ethical given their potential for resulting in pregnancies risky enough to warrent advising abortion. Nor am I going to address the fact that in vitro treatments require the creation of more embroys than anyone intends to implant. I am not even going to write about whether we should be spending so much health care money on helping people to reproduce and then paying for the complications that occur as a result of those treatments. Not today anyway.
Today all I am going to write about is the use of the term "selective reduction" itself.
RU-486, or mifepristone, was approved for use in 2000 in the US, for medical abortions.
Shortly there after, something weird started happening. A handful of women who used RU-486 were dying from sepsis, caused by a really rare bacteria, Clostridium sordellii. Like, these women didnt have AIDS. They werent meth addicts or recovering from cancer. They were previously completely healthy 18, 22 year-old women dropping dead.
To pro-lifers, the message was clear: Abortion kills women.
Planned Parenthood's recommendation to use the abortion-causing drug Misoprostol vaginally rather than orally has led to fatal infections according to a research study released by the University of Michigan.
"This study shows Planned Parenthood not only disregards the lives of babies in the womb, but the lives of their mothers as well," said American Life League's Jim Sedlak. "This is scandalous, if not criminal. It's time people stopped viewing Planned Parenthood as a responsible healthcare organization and saw it for what it is -- a money-making, social engineering group that plies its trade of sex and abortion without regard to human life, born or preborn."
To rational people and scientists, there is a different puzzle afoot.
... for now. While I'm thrilled and celebrating I recognize that this is like a ping-pong match we play with women's lives every presidential election cycle. The rule was first initiated under Reagan in the mid 1980s, maintained by the first Bush, then reversed by Clinton then reinstated by the second Bush, and now reversed again. What will happen at the next changing of the guard?
Meanwhile, back on a celebratory note, it was very exciting for me to see how the twitterverse went wild when the revoking of the gag rule was announced. Check this out:Twitter search for Obama global gag rule
Today is January 22, the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade which made abortion bans unconstitutional, and which has been marked for the last three years by "Blog for Choice" day. The Blog for Choice folks prompted bloggers to write about their top pro-choice hope for the Obama administration. (Can I tell you how much I love typing those words: "Obama administration," "President Obama" ... gives me chills!)
My immediate hopes are of course for a rescinding of the Mexico City policy (aka the global gag rule) that prohibits any clinic anywhere in the world that receives US federal aid money from counseling women about abortion or providing abortion services. I am also hoping that the news of Obama's freezing the "conscience exemption" enacted by Bush in a "midnight regulation" is true. RH Reality Check reported yesterday, based on articles in the LA Times and the Press Democrat that both were likely to happen.
But what is my long term wish? (Click here to read more)
One of the problems with politics is how words and images can slip from being portrayals of people's lives into trite cliché so easily that you can't even remember when the line was crossed. For example, take the coat hanger.
The coat hanger has been the symbol of activists who work to keep abortion a viable choice for all women everywhere. It represents the bad old days, when abortion was illegal in many parts of the country, although being illegal never stopped it from happening. The coat hanger has become ubiquitous in the debate over abortion. So much so that its meaning seems to have become invisible. It's been over thirty years now since Roe V. Wade was first handed down, and a couple of generations have grown up and become sexually active with the choice of abortion as something that could be taken as granted. The coat hanger and the deaths and self-mutilations it represents has become part of our intellectual wallpaper, something that is so old and familiar that we barely think of it at all. When we do, many people are likely to see the coat hanger as more symbolic of earnest young activists wound up on idealism and hyperbole than as part of our history.
It's interesting that "Blog for Choice" day falls right after Martin Luther King Jr's holiday. It has me thinking about intersections and parallels of civil rights issues. For those who've studied segregation, the terms "de facto" and "de jure" are familiar. They mean "in fact" and "by law" and they are used to describe the reality of segregation in the United States today. Segregation in schools, for example, has been illegal since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 yet there is a great deal of de facto segregation in American schools.
With Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards
Roe v. Wade is 35 years old this month. We'll be celebrating, agitating, and planning for the future by screening Gillian Aldrich's "I Had an Abortion" and hosting a discussion with Jennifer Baumgardner, Amy Richards and other folks from the Third Wave Foundation.
The New York Times reports this morning that Verizon has rejected a proposal by Naral Pro-Choice America to use its network for sending text messages to people who sign up for them. Other cell phone networks have accepted the proposal which allows subscribers to sign up to receive text message updates from NARAL.
According to a communication with Verizon that NARAL gave to the times, the company's policy is to reject proposals from groups that “promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its [Verizon's] discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.”
There are at least three very troubling pieces of this rationale.
A few days ago JanieBelle wrote about the Senate vote that would end the global gag rule if it isn't vetoed. A veto is a very real possibility, though. And before the President even has a chance to veto the bill, it has to get through a reconciliation conference with the House. NARAL Pro-Choice America is calling for 50,000 people to write to Congress to make sure that the gag rule repeal stays in the bill that goes to the President. That'll also help build a good base to organize an override of the veto if it becomes necessary.